Death is not the end of the journey, it is the transition point to a new one.
Beneath the boughs
Of a Sycamore tree
A life gently ebbs.
With flashes of memories
The times are relived.
There was laughter
Full of meaning.
But move forward
Soon gentle decay
Perhaps from the old
A new sprout
And so it begins
Again and once more.
Beneath the boughs
Of the Sycamore tree
Life gently grows.
Anna looked carefully around her. She needed to be alone, just one more time. She would never have come back here if she hadn’t promised. It was so long ago. But she was a woman who kept her word. She had keep it for 41 years. Now she had been given a limit on the time she had left. Three months, that was it. There were things she needed to do, and time was short.
She was 21 when it happened. He was 24. They were just kids, they didn’t know about death. They learned a lot that night. There were two others in their party, young lovers. Two people in the first blush of love and totally oblivious to the world around them. There was no moon that night, no wind. It was quiet, deathly so. Perhaps it was a sign. Maybe they should have paid attention.
Anna and her lover walked into the forest hand in hand. They talked about their future, how many children they would have and where they would like to live. They stopped and kissed with long gentle caresses. They were comfortable in their companionship. This night was a way to let Michael and Holly have a chance to be together. Two young lovers. It wasn’t perfect but laying blankets down in the grasses would do. And the starry night would be the only witness to their love.
After a time Anna and Simon returned from their walk. They were laughing, happy. How quickly the world can change. Michael stood at the edge of the water staring at a rowboat a few yards offshore. Holly was nowhere to be found.
Anna sat on the edge of a rowboat that was overturned at the shoreline. She wondered briefly if it was the same one. Decades past. Michael wouldn’t or couldn’t tell them what happened. The blanket was gone and so was Holly. Simon waded into the water to retrieve the boat and it only added to the mystery. There was blood on the bottom of the boat, not a lot but enough that Anna worried.
It was a different time, different expectations. No one seemed to miss Holly. No one asked where she was. Even the police didn’t seem to care. No body no worries. Michael never spoke about her except once. A few weeks after the fateful night Michael asked Anna if she would scatter his ashes at the place he lost Holly. She agreed never imagining that he would be dead three days later, by his own hand.
She did as she was asked with Simon by her side. They tried to forget that night, tried not to wonder what had happened. They drifted apart. But they kept silent. Simon moved across the country and eventually died in a car accident. He never married. Just like Anna. When his ashes showed up at her door it was no surprise. She knew. They were all bound by the events of that one night. She came out again to the same spot.
A few more years went by and Anna worried that the land around the lake would be bought and developed so she used her substantial influences to purchase the land, to protect it. And now she was here. Alone. It was almost time. Her turn soon.
“We’ve been waiting for you Anna.”
“The body of socialite Anna Ellery was found on Demon’s Lake. She had succumbed to an aggressive tumor. It is unknown why she would travel to the lake, which she has owned for almost 30 years. More than 40 years ago Ms. Ellery was in a party at the lake when one of her companions went missing. Holly Burgess’ body was never found.”
This picture was taken by Jithin at trablogger.wordpress.com. I saw it on one of his posts and was immediately inspired. This story is the result. The photo is used with his permission. Please check out his blog, you will not be disappointed!
Andrew heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a busy night but now the bar was empty and he was looking forward to cashing out and going home. Not bad for a summer gig but it was exhausting work. As he turned around to polish down the bar one more time he noticed a man sitting at the end.
“Hey man I didn’t see you sitting there, sorry about that. What can I get you?” Andrew looked expectantly at the man and wondered if he’d seen him somewhere before. He looked familiar.
The party in question raised his head slightly and quietly said “beer, whatever you got on tap”.
Andrew hurried to comply. The sooner this guy drank up his beer the sooner Andrew could get out of here. As the bartender turned back to his patron he noticed the man looking at the five shots of rum that were always kept at the end of the bar.
Ever a friendly sort Andrew proceeded to explain. “There’s a cool story about those shots of rum. The original owner of the bar and his four shipmates went down at sea in a storm. These are to honor them. Cool story don’t you think?” Andrew expected this patron to react the way everyone else did: to smile and then to go on to talk about something else. No one likes to talk about death too often it’s, well, depressing.
“It was’na cool, it was cold. Bitterly cold. You have’na got the story right.” The person speaking barely raised his head and he spoke so quietly that Andrew had to stop what he was doing and pay attention.
“Only four died that night. Tonight. 100 years ago tonight there was a storm. They thought they were safe. They anchored in a small bay and left one on watch to make sure everything was okay. Everything wasn’t okay. It was cold. Just one quick little sip of gin would warm you up. Problem is one little sip ended up becoming a whole bottle. It was a bugger of storm. But sailors are used to sleeping when the boat rolls. They count on their shipmate on watch to let them know if there’s any danger. But he fell asleep. Too much grog. When the big wave hit he got tossed into the drink. Saved his life. Shipmates were asleep below deck. The sea took ‘em. The sea doesn’t give back what she takes. She’s a jealous mistress.”
Andrew was stunned. “How do you know this? How do you know what happened? And what happened to the fifth guy that went overboard?”
The man looked up and Andrew could see his face and realized that he was an old man. He looked broken and sad. Andrew looked a little more closely and realized where he’d seen his face before. He took a step back and watched.
“Insurance money paid for this bar and its name tells the story of what happened that night: The Broken Anchor. One man survived and lived with the guilt of what he had done. He lived and for the next 40 years made a toast to his four shipmates every night with four tots of rum. Their ghosts can’t drink them but everybody should know how they died.”
“Cecil. His name was Cecil. I remember now. He was buried at sea. When he died he asked that the name of the bar never be changed and a measure of rum be added to the others so that there are now five. I love the history of the area and that one is definitely one for the books. Man that is so cool! You must be a relative, you look just like the picture in the office. ” Andrew was excited and turned away to grab a pen and a piece paper to write down this newfound knowledge. When he turned back the party he had been speaking to was gone. There was water pooling on the stool and the floor. There was another damp spot on the bar along with a piece of seaweed and an empty shot glass.
At first he was confused thinking he’d imagined all of this but when he looked to the end of the bar the remaining four shots of rum were also gone, emptied. A chill went up Andrew’s back and for the first time in a very long time he grew afraid of the dark.
At that precise moment he heard the local church bell ring 2 o’clock in the morning. Gusts of wind rattled the panes of glass in the front window and Andrew for just a moment was sure he heard several men singing. He couldn’t quite make out the words but was pretty sure he heard the name Cecil B. That was the name of the boat!
I didn’t write this poem, I don’t know who did. A friend sent it to me. My Grandfather and my Father each fought in a world war. May we one day know world peace.
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.
And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.
He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?
Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A VETERAN DIED TODAY.”